Setting Goals that Stick

Have you ever set a goal in the waning hours of the year that seemed doable at the time, but fizzled out around mid-January?  Something like, “this year I will smile more, spend more time with my friends and be easier on myself” or “this year I will save more money.”  These are all worthy goals, but what do they really mean? Are goals like this serving your growth?  And can you stick to them?

In order for a goal to benefit your personal evolution, it needs to be meaningful, intrinsically motivating and achievable in the near-term. A good baseline to test if a goal will stick is it’s impact or effect. To test your goals for quality, ask yourself these questions:

  • If I achieve this goal, what are the outcomes?
  • Who is going to be effected by this change?

For example, last year I had a goal to spend less time in my car.  In order to achieve this goal I used my bike to run local errands, carpooled with other moms and shopped more at my neighborhood grocery store. The impact of achieving this goal was to make me healthier and more aware of my consumption patterns. It also helped me become more connected to my community and improved our air quality by a tiny fraction.

Here are a few guidelines for setting Goals that Stick:

  1. Make it Meaningful: If the goal is not meaningful to you, even though it is achieved you may not feel fulfilled.


  1. Make it Intrinsically Inspiring: Goals that come from the “inside out” give you energy and motivation to change. This is like using super-glue; the more you are interested in and challenged by your goal, the more you will stick to the actions required to achieve it.


  1. Make it Measurable: The goal needs a specific measurable effect. If the goal is too vague, you will have difficulty planning your effort toward achieving it.  Here is a good example of a measurable goal: “I want to build my running distance to 10 miles a week by March 2014.”


  1. Make it Achievable in the Near-Term:  You have a better chance at achieving a goal that is near-term time bound.  Your brain thrives on traction. When you feel a little success, your brain desires more.  The opposite is also true.  Therefore if you goal is not achievable in the near-term, your brain will receive a message that you have failed and you will actually feel worse despite all your efforts.


Setting goals and telling others about them is a powerful way to attract the things that you desire in your life. These are your goals and you are the direct beneficiary of the action, so make them meaningful, motivating, realistic and achievable!


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